Exploring the Washington Office special collections

This is a guest post from Andrew Staton, our fall special collections intern joining us from the University of Maryland. Andrew is a genealogist and budding archivist with two semesters left at UMD. He graduated from the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts in history and a Bachelor of Arts in historic preservation and community planning.

My first projects as an intern in the ALA Washington Office have focused on three of the Washington Office’s archival collections – two that contain mostly bound materials such as books and reports, and one photographic collection representing events and staff from the office’s nearly seventy-five-year history.

The historical theme of library advocacy in Washington is visible throughout all three of these special collections. The photographs, for example, depict the history of the Washington Office and a variety of events connecting libraries and the government from the 1950s to the 2000s. These photos visually place the Washington Office at the forefront of library advocacy throughout its history, particularly through former directors Julia Bennett, Germaine Krettek and Eileen Cooke—the combined tenure of whom spans over forty years.

I think the moments captured in the photographs are important for two reasons: they show how the ALA and the Washington Office have been consistently at the forefront of library advocacy and they illustrate how U.S. Presidents in recent history have demonstrated their commitment to the library and information professions.

President John F. Kennedy celebrates the swearing in of the US Commissioner of Education, Francis Keppel, in December 1962. Germaine Krettek, director of the Washington Office, looks on from the far left of the photo.

President John F. Kennedy celebrates the swearing in of the US Commissioner of Education, Francis Keppel, in December 1962. Germaine Krettek, director of the Washington Office, looks on from the far left of the photo.

The bound materials I have processed also point to our rich history of advocacy. The first collection of reports that I processed related to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Services (NCLIS), an organization that lasted from 1970 to 2002. The reports detail the development of many library programs that continue to exist and thrive today. For example, an August 1974 NCLIS report makes the argument for a national interlibrary loan program, a system that continues to be widely used in the 21st century.

The second collection of reports are related to the White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services (WHCLIS), first held in 1979 under President Jimmy Carter and again in 1991 under President George H. W. Bush. WHCLIST – the White House Conference on Libraries and Information Science Taskforce – turned over its assets to the ALA Washington Office in 2012 to foster a new generation of library advocacy through an annual award that sponsors an attendee to National Library Legislative Day.

The purpose of NCLIS and WHCLIS was to foster a more standardized, universal dialogue regarding the world of libraries and information. Both were responsible for important constructive conversations that brought the profession forward.

Over the next half of my internship, I am looking forward to digging into more archival files and artifacts. Now, we are boxing up the photos and NCLIS and WHCLIS reports to send them to the American Library Association Archives, housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Once there, they will be digitized and made searchable—just in time for the Washington Office to celebrate their 75th anniversary.

Director of the Washington Office Germaine Krettek (far left) and Executive Director of the ALA David Clift (second to left, behind Ms. Krettek) attend a 1964 White House event with President Lyndon Johnson (far right).

Director of the Washington Office Germaine Krettek (far left) and Executive Director of the ALA David Clift (second to left, behind Ms. Krettek) attend a 1964 White House event with President Lyndon Johnson (far right).

Germaine Krettek, director of the Washington Office, shakes hands with President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office during a meeting with representatives of the American Library Trustees Association (ALTA, a division of the ALA) in October 1969.

Germaine Krettek, director of the Washington Office, shakes hands with President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office during a meeting with representatives of the American Library Trustees Association (ALTA, a division of the ALA) in October 1969.

Also present at President Nixon’s October 1969 meeting with ALTA representatives is then-House Minority Leader and future President Gerald Ford, far left.

Also present at President Nixon’s October 1969 meeting with ALTA representatives is then-House Minority Leader and future President Gerald Ford, far left.

Washington Office director Eileen Cooke, right, shakes hands with then-Second Lady (and future First Lady) Barbara Bush during a 1983 event in Washington.

Washington Office director Eileen Cooke, right, shakes hands with then-Second Lady (and future First Lady) Barbara Bush during a 1983 event in Washington.

A welcome letter from President Jimmy Carter greets guests at the first White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services in November 1979 – at which he also spoke to attendees about his previous service as a library trustee in Georgia.

A welcome letter from President Jimmy Carter greets guests at the first White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services (WHCLIS) in November 1979 – at which he also spoke to attendees about his previous service as a library trustee in Georgia.

Future President Bill Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas, is a speaker at the November 1979 WHCLIS, with his accomplishments relating to libraries and the information profession highlighted in the event’s program.

Future President Bill Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas, is a speaker at the November 1979 WHCLIS, with his accomplishments relating to libraries and the information profession highlighted in the event’s program.

About Emily Wagner

Emily Wagner is the Information Manager for ALA's Washington Office. She earned her B.A. in Literature from Mount Holyoke College and her M.S.L.I.S. from The Catholic University of America. She can be reached via e-mail at ewagner@alawash.org.

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